(ANTIMEDIA Op-ed) — Donald Trump’s speeches, interviews, and warmongering escapades on Twitter are the markings of a madman. In a recent Twitter tirade, the president openly threatened nuclear war with North Korea, writing the following:
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
The threat of nuclear war would typically send shivers down the spines of those of us with the normal amount of empathy required to be a well-adjusted human. According to whistleblower and former defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, Trump’s threats go further than mere empty gestures. They are tantamount to actually using nukes indirectly. As he recently stated in an interview with Democracy Now!:
“It’s not a question of whether the president might use them. He’s using them the way you use a gun when you point it at somebody in a confrontation, whether or not you pull the trigger. And both Trump and Kim are using their weapons in that encounter right now, as many presidents have done…We use them on the hip.”
Why would someone want to use the threat of nuclear annihilation that way? Can they be trusted to operate the most powerful office in the world?
At the end of December, Donald Trump did an interview with New York Times’ reporter Michael Schmidt, and the corporate media immediately lambasted his comments. Trump’s nonsensical ramblings — on the face of it — arguably portray someone who is by all accounts mentally unfit to hold the office of the president. Whether or not Trump is taking everyone for a ride as the master of manipulation, the corporate media certainly holds the view that he is simply cognitively incompetent.
“Incoherent, authoritarian, uninformed: Trump’s New York Times interview is a scary read,” Vox opined. “Trump’s rambling New York Times interview reveals a mind in denial,” wrote Vanity Fair. “Trump’s New York Times interview is a portrait of a man in cognitive decline,” Esquire asserted. CNN highlighted the “47 most outrageous lines in Donald Trump’s New York Times interview.” The Washington Post lamented a lesser “11 curious quotes from Trump’s New York Times interview.”
By all accounts, if you care about verifiable facts and integrity, it should be evident that the president is lying through his teeth throughout his interview with Michael Schmidt. When he isn’t lying, he’s barely making practical sense. Yet this was a man who the American people saw suited to take up the nuclear codes in the presidential hot-seat with full knowledge that this was how he presented himself on a daily basis.
This is a man who, like a petulant child, challenged his secretary of state to an IQ test after this official reportedly called the president a “fucking moron” in response to Trump asking three times in a meeting, “If we have nuclear weapons, why don’t we use them?”
Despite all of this ridiculous behavior, no matter how many times the media explains how much Donald Trump behaves like an incoherent buffoon, their criticisms do absolutely nothing to exact serious change on the people who matter most: his supporters. In fact, Trump’s ludicrous behavior is likely intentionally directed at his support base, which seems to love every narcissistic challenge he presents to the neoliberal establishment and its media cohorts.
As Charles J. Sykes wrote for the New York Times in February of last year, Donald Trump “understands that attacking the media is the reddest of meat for his base, which has been conditioned to reject reporting from news sites outside of the conservative media ecosystem.”
This dynamic, unfortunately, swings both ways. If Trump attacks the media, his support base will rally behind him. Equally, if the mainstream media attacks Trump in the manner they have become so accustomed to, his support base stays largely immune to it. These attacks only strengthen their diehard support for Trump. Sykes explains further:
“For years, as a conservative radio talk show host, I played a role in that conditioning by hammering the mainstream media for its bias and double standards. But the price turned out to be far higher than I imagined. The cumulative effect of the attacks was to delegitimize those outlets and essentially destroy much of the right’s immunity to false information. We thought we were creating a savvier, more skeptical audience. Instead, we opened the door for President Trump, who found an audience that could be easily misled.” [emphasis added]
The effects of this paradigm go far beyond that of people being simply misinformed and needing to attain more credible research. As Sykes points out, it “also means that the more the fact-based media tries to debunk the president’s falsehoods, the further it will entrench the battle lines.”
In other words, all of the articles attempting to criticize the New York Times interview are completely pointless (it’s not clear whether the media’s true aim is to change the hearts of Trump’s core support base or simply pander to the anti-Trump crowd, anyway). The people who read those articles and agree with them do not require further proof that Trump is a madman; they can see it quite clearly for themselves. The people who need convincing are almost completely untouchable by the mainstream media, who they have grown to completely distrust. In that context, the media is merely preaching to the choir while the rest of us have to put up with the potential horror of a nuclear winter simply because some Americans love a president who is ‘strong’ and will stand up for America (unlike that liberal Muslim commie we had a few years back, some reason).
Sykes explains that discrediting outlets that attack the president “helps insulate him from criticism and it allows him to create his own narratives, metrics and ‘alternative facts.’”
If you don’t believe me, take a look at this tweet from January 2, 2018, where Donald Trump stated that “[s]ince taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news – it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!”
This is by no stretch of the imagination, completely false, and Donald Trump never presented any evidence that he had been strict on commercial aviation – ever. Yet, this tweet has 83,514 likes and 15,192 retweets.
To most of us, Donald Trump has the brain of a rambling, jealous child who constantly takes credit for the good work done by other people (or flat out lie instead). But to his support base, any attack on him is automatically uncredible, and as Sykes reported, what we are now witnessing in the age of Trump is nothing short of an “attack on credibility itself.”
As Sykes aptly explained:
“The Russian dissident and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov drew upon long familiarity with that process when he tweeted: ‘The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.’
“Mr. Kasparov grasps that the real threat is not merely that a large number of Americans have become accustomed to rejecting factual information, or even that they have become habituated to believing hoaxes. The real danger is that, inundated with ‘alternative facts,’ many voters will simply shrug, asking, ‘What is truth?’ — and not wait for an answer.
“In that world, the leader becomes the only reliable source of truth; a familiar phenomenon in an authoritarian state, but a radical departure from the norms of a democratic society. The battle over truth is now central to our politics.” [emphasis added]